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Absentee voting hits record level in Alabama

Alabamians are voting by absentee ballot in record numbers this year after pandemic rules made it easier to do so, even lining up on Saturdays to cast votes.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 10:53 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) —Alabamians are voting by absentee ballot in record numbers this year after pandemic rules made it easier to do so, even lining up on Saturdays to cast votes.

And as early voting opportunities prove popular, some are asking the question why the state does not allow this every year.

As of this week, more than 145,000 absentee votes have already been cast either by mail or in-person voting, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. He said that number is expected to rise.

The state’s previous record for absentee ballot voting was about 89,000. Merrill said there were about another 70,000 absentee ballots that have been requested but have not yet been mailed back.

“This is direct evidence that people want to vote early,” said Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England, who is the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

England said he believes the issue cuts across party lines, and that people of all political leanings appreciate the opportunity to vote outside of 12 hours on Election Day.

Alabama does not technically have early voting, but people can cast absentee ballots by mail or in-person at local elections offices. Normally, to vote absentee, people must swear that they are out-of-town or ill or working during polling hours. Merrill has said this year people can vote by absentee ballot if they are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 at the polls.

Election officials in more than a dozen of Alabama’s 67 counties have offered Saturday in-person absentee voting to handle the flood of people.

On a rainy Saturday in Montgomery, people waited in line for more than three hours for an opportunity to vote early in the November election. News outlets showed similar lines in Birmingham and Mobile.

Aviance Turboll, 40, stood with an umbrella in hand to cast her vote for Joe Biden.

Turnboll is an advanced placement science teacher at a Montgomery magnet school and mother of three teenagers. Her work and home schedule sometimes makes it difficult to get to the polls on Election Day, so Saturday voting is much more convenient, she said.

"I say make this the norm. Make it where that we are not making it so difficult with all these obstacles in the way for voting," she said.

Wearing a black t-shirt with the word VOTE on it, Jacqueline Smiley, 36, was turned away from voting Saturday because local election officials closed the line at noon. Although people already in the long line, which snaked around the block, were allowed to vote. Smiley said she planned to come back Monday, but she would also like to see the state allow early voting every year.

“It would be beneficial to anyone who has to work or just can't get away,” she said.

Democrats have made a push to get people to the polls early. “Every day is Election Day,” the state Democratic Party wrote on social media in posts encouraging people to make a plan for voting.

England said he expects legislation to be introduced in the next session to allow early voting every year or at least allow people to vote absentee without an excuse.

Such a change would have to be approved by the GOP-dominated Alabama Legislature. A bill to allow people to vote absentee vote without an excuse or explanation passed the state Senate in 2017 but did not get a vote in the House of Representatives. Merrill said he expects the issue to be considered in the 2021 legislation session.

Asked if Republican Gov. Kay Ivey would support a change to allow early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, spokeswoman Gina Maiola replied that the governor, “is confident in the current process in place and believes that every person has ample opportunity to cast their vote in Alabama, even as we are amidst a pandemic.”

Merrill said the decision to offer Saturday voting is up to local election officials.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened before,” Merrill said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516486

Reported Deaths: 10299
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35042558
DeSoto33463432
Hinds32797643
Jackson24926392
Rankin22593405
Lee16523245
Madison14978283
Jones14191248
Forrest13852260
Lauderdale12326323
Lowndes11387193
Lamar10713140
Pearl River9759244
Lafayette8881143
Hancock7848132
Washington7561169
Oktibbeha7234138
Monroe7091179
Pontotoc7060110
Warren6892178
Panola6807135
Neshoba6753210
Marshall6735142
Bolivar6472151
Union645699
Alcorn5950108
Pike5947157
Lincoln5544136
George511080
Prentiss510185
Tippah497983
Itawamba4903107
Scott479499
Tate4786118
Adams4784125
Leflore4756144
Yazoo458492
Copiah458395
Simpson4577117
Wayne443772
Covington435395
Sunflower4331106
Marion4311112
Coahoma4259110
Leake414491
Newton396182
Tishomingo388894
Grenada3796109
Stone366466
Attala341690
Jasper341566
Chickasaw319167
Winston318892
Clay313978
Clarke301995
Calhoun288950
Holmes273389
Smith270852
Yalobusha245847
Tallahatchie232653
Greene225449
Walthall222166
Lawrence220842
Perry214656
Amite210357
Webster206748
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182757
Carroll175841
Jefferson Davis174643
Tunica163939
Benton153439
Kemper145541
Choctaw137827
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132339
Franklin126630
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848779

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164582005
Mobile744601384
Madison53563738
Shelby38454371
Baldwin38215589
Tuscaloosa36172644
Montgomery34573782
Lee25690264
Calhoun22636520
Morgan22548411
Etowah20075520
Marshall18865318
Houston17795426
St. Clair16968359
Limestone16206220
Cullman16170306
Elmore15952295
Lauderdale15093307
Talladega14267302
DeKalb13095271
Walker12180380
Blount10791193
Autauga10562157
Jackson10221196
Coffee9440192
Colbert9376210
Dale9049192
Tallapoosa7287202
Russell711465
Chilton7098170
Covington6973197
Escambia6969144
Franklin6369108
Chambers5810142
Marion5446132
Dallas5306210
Pike5135109
Clarke486086
Lawrence4852130
Winston4804110
Geneva4656136
Bibb436495
Barbour370880
Butler3445101
Marengo342993
Monroe338566
Randolph338067
Pickens335090
Fayette332285
Henry321266
Cherokee320564
Hale319589
Crenshaw261878
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay253169
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130745
Choctaw94628
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